The following is one of the entries from my 100 Greatest Films from Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal list, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
Raise ravens, and they will pluck your eyes out. — Spanish proverb
Carlos Saura’s Raise Ravens—nonsensically in the U.S., Cria!—is, like his Garden of Delights (1970), a political allegory about Spain under Franco, who died around the time of production. It is also a sensitive evocation of a nine-year-old’s childhood, but this childhood, described by the adult Ana as “sad” and “indeterminate,” itself suggests the imprint of fascist Spain.
The film opens with black-and-white photographs of Ana and family. Color photos follow—also snapshots of the past, but, in juxtaposition with those preceding it, also suggesting the present. Finally, the appearance of both color and black-and-white photos within the same shot, intermingling time frames, suggests memory. Ana’s mother, Maria, is dead; Ana’s father, in bed with his mistress as Ana listens outside his door, is about to be, from a heart attack.
Ana’s father was a military officer—one of Franco’s soldiers. The night of his death the camera moves through the darkness of his house; emblematic of Francoism, he is the darkness in the house. Maria might have been a concert pianist, but her husband’s rigid authority denied her this. He had translated the home into Francoism.
Geraldine Chaplin plays (beautifully) two roles: Maria, as the adult Ana recalls or reimagines her; the adult Ana. The film is surrealistic, so there is really no way to determine whether or when Ana the child is imagining herself as a grown-up or remembering her mother, or whether or when the adult is Maria or Ana, or a conflation of both. In the same frames, both child and adult appear; but who is comforting whom? Daughter bereft of mother reflects mother bereft of daughter, and fascism has tightened the tangle of experiences and memories entrapping both Anas.
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